It’s the time of year when Real Change embarks on our biggest annual fundraiser, the one that determines how we’ll start the new year: strong and poised for anything 2024 might throw at us — or struggling to keep our doors open until spring?
So far, with the help of this incredible community, we’ve raised nearly $65,000 in the Real Change “Stronger Together” Winter Fund Drive. We set a hopeful, lofty goal to raise just over $267,000 by Dec. 31. And with you in our corner, I know we’ll make it happen!
“Stronger Together” comes at a critical time in our annual fundraising, when individual donations — which make up over 50% of our revenue — are down, and we have a $67,097.44 gap to close in a few short weeks (yes, that’s why our end-of-year goal of $267,097.44 is so specific).
Nonprofit work by its very nature requires a perennial push for dollars so our community-focused programs can continue to serve as many people as possible in any given year.
It’s never really “enough,” but that doesn’t mean it’s not substantial. I promise you, it is.
So, how much more can you do right now? Can you make a one-time donation of $50, $500 or even $5,000? Can you set up a recurring monthly donation of $20.83 for a total of $250 per year?
How many Grubhub orders are you willing to forego if it means that someone else gets to eat at all that day?
This isn’t a guilt trip — these are questions I ask myself all the time. Leveling the playing field doesn’t have to look like enormous self-sacrifice. Most of us can do just a little bit, if not a lot, more.
And I’m here to tell you that a little goes a long way, especially when we work together!
Every Wednesday at Real Change, when the big truck arrives with new issues of the paper, vendors, staff and volunteers line up to create a bucket brigade and unload up to 7,500 copies of Real Change. Week after week, I’m amazed by how quickly and easily we do it.
Similarly, fundraising is a marathon that nonprofits run all year long, every year. From working at local grassroots organizations serving marginalized communities for the last 15 years, I can tell you firsthand that there are countless passionate and empathetic people among us who time and again creatively make a single, crisp dollar bill elastic. And when these folks put their heads together, they work miracles. They shouldn’t have to, but there it is.
Talk about stretching a dollar: Real Change vendors buy each paper for 60 cents and sell them for $2. With tips, the average paper ultimately goes for closer to $5.
But $1.40 per paper is what vendors can rely on.
And they use it to change their lives. It’s not easy, not even close, but vendors find something else at Real Change besides a steady, reliable income; something you can’t put a price tag on — they find hope.
Take it from Daniell Stahlman, a vendor who recently said, “[Real Change] changed my life. It gave me hope when I didn’t have any.”
Bolstered by the support of the Vendor Center, their fellow vendors and the broader community, Real Change vendors can set personal goals and forge ahead to realize their dreams.
If you’ve picked up the last few issues of Real Change, you’ve probably seen Vendor Steve Gunn’s smiling face promoting our winter fund drive. Gunn realized his dreams when he got into housing and found steady income selling Real Change. Nowadays, he has a comfortable armchair to sit in while he watches the Seahawks (RIP Seahawks Super Bowl LVIII chances).
But Gunn was homeless for 12 long years prior to this. And despite all that he’s been through, he says, “The people out here, they help people.”
Gunn lives by this philosophy. His customers have helped him by buying not only the paper — which he sells at his regular post, across the street from the Washington Athletic Club in downtown Seattle — but also clothes and even a plane ticket to go home to Alabama to visit his family.
And just as other vendors have helped Gunn, he told us, he has helped them. He recently gave 10 of his papers to another vendor who didn’t have money to buy papers to sell.
Gunn also told us he wants to give back to the community when he retires.
“I’m 60 years old,” he said. “Ten years from now, I want to be in a nursing home. And I’m gonna have a lot of money hidden somewhere. … If you find this money, give it to REACH. Give it to Real Change.” He said he’s going to tell his family that he wants any money he doesn’t need to go “back to the community.”
Put your money back into the community today by donating to the Real Change “Stronger Together” Winter Fund Drive. Scan the QR code or go to bit.ly/RCtogether, and give what you can to help us help people like Steve Gunn. Let’s make sure people never stop saying that the people out here help people!
A little goes a long way. We are stronger together. And together, we can and will change the world. How do I know that? Because we’re already doing it.
When I asked Gunn what he would say to readers and everyone who supports Real Change, he said, “Thank you. Thank you. There ain’t no more I can say but thank you.”
Read more of the Dec. 13–19, 2023 issue.